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Light the Lamp of Enlightenment
|by Bhupinder Singh|
The earthen lamp Deewa has become antiquated, thanks to the invention of electricity. Still one time of the year during Diwali, it makes a comeback as a gentle reminder of its earlier thriving heydays. But 550 years back it was ubiquitous, as well as a daily essential, providing illumination after darkness.
The continued fast pace of technological advancement is soon going to relegate this icon of illumination to museums along with other displayed antique historical objects. Imagine, how the coming generation, not experienced with Deewa could relate to metaphor of Deewa, when trying to explain something of supreme significance. So, this Diwali time let us explore the metaphor of Deewa to get the insight that Guru Ji is sharing with us. We still have many alive from that generation who had exposure to Deewa in their real lives and can relate to it.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji has shared the significance of light of the Deewa in this shabad as under to show how it dispels darkness:
Translation: (Just as) when the lamp is lit, the darkness is dispelled; (similarly) reading the scriptures (not mere reading the text per se, but the life molded by them) the sinful intellect is purged.
Guru Ji has used the metaphor of lamp, to talk about the lamp of wisdom within. Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s observation is of a commonly observed fact that the darkness is dispelled with light. Darkness does not have an independent existence of its own, it is simply absence of light. When the light enters that space, the phenomenon of dispelling the darkness is automatic. But what type of darkness is being referred to by Guru Ji here? Darkness here is not physical absence of light, but our dark nature of unsatiable desires, greed, covetousness, temptation, ignorance, egotism, hypocrisy, lustfulness, selfishness, mental delusion etc. The darkness that engages our awareness so completely, overpowering it fully, and incapacitating its rationality. In short that life is an unenlightened existence.
In another place in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Ji has compared the life molded from attentive study of spiritual scriptures to that lamp of enlightenment. Guru Ji says:
Translation: The Naam alone is my lamp; I have put the oil of (worldly) suffering into it. Its flame (which provides light in this world and the after world) has dried up this oil and I have escaped my meeting with the Messenger of Death. ||1||
Guru Ji says his lamp is “Naam”. “Naam” is the constant awareness of the Divine presence of the Creator in the creation. Naam is the awareness in which sins in life are not committed. The consequence of its light shining within is the meeting with messengers of death does not take place. This educational aspect is not shared by our schools, higher educational institutions, parents, society, or the media. That unique awareness is only developed through life molded from the deep study of scriptures. Which in turn consumed all the sufferings, just as the wick soaked in oil consumed it, in return providing us with the light. Imagine, with “Naam” all the sufferings of life are gone. The sufferings in life which were stoically accepted has become the impetus for spiritual growth. The bigger benefit is that the constantly vacillating mind is stilled and is not affected by either worldly enticements or threats. Let us ask Guru Ji to further clarify on the type of fuel he is referring to and explain about the wick as well. Guru Ji says:
Translation: Let the implementation of the instructions of your prayer book be the oil and let the reverent fear of God be the wick for the lamp of this body. Light this lamp with the understanding of Truth. ||2||
Here Guru Ji is making it clear that scriptures are not merely to be read but internalized, implemented in life, transforming it. The reverent fear acts as the wick of this body-lamp. So:
Lamp = Human Body
When this lamp is lighted within, that will make one a “Brahmgyani” or “Gurmukh”, who is one with God, while alive. However, there is a strong impediment to its implementation in life. That hurdle is attachment to the illusion or “Maya”. The phenomenal world in which everything is perishable yet appears surreal, enticing, and lasting. It attracts us making us attached to its various forms. As this illusion is perceived by mind alone, in other words mind is “Maya”. What is the ‘Modes Operandi’ of Maya is clarified by Guru Ji as:
Translation: This is Maya, by which (1) "Hari" (Mool) is forsaken; (2) (worldly) attachment is born, and (3) the love of duality wells up within.
Anything that exists in the created world and attracts us to it is Maya. It takes us away from the remembrance of the Creator. When the camouflage of “Maya” is removed from over the creation, then its True essence is witnessed and experienced. Gurbani says that in order to drive away “Maya” the reverent fear needs to be inculcated. It is the fear that all my education, wealth, assets, power, position, family –wife, children, parents, relatives, and friends cannot help me there, in the world after. The fear, that the inaction or inertia on my part can cost me my close relationship with my Guru. The fear, that the rebirth in human form may not be a future feasibility. This fear gives birth to a new awareness, capable of driving away all other worldly fears. This reverent fear is going to make the seeker bold, and fearless to the world. Guru Ji says that without this reverent fear, no one ever crosses across the world-ocean.
Translation: Without the Fear (of God), no one crosses over the world-ocean. This reverent fear will in turn give birth to the love for “Naam”. Guru Ji has shared that aspect in these words:
Translation: Without the (reverent) Fear of God, there is no devotional worship, and no love for the Naam, the Name of the Lord. Meeting with the True Guru, the reverent Fear of God wells up, and one is embellished with the Fear and the Love of God.
When the lamp of wisdom is lighted within, its light, its illumination will shine all across dispelling darkness. Thus, darkness without any independent existence of its own, makes the absence of light as the prop for its existence. When that lamp is lighted, it cannot be extinguished as the fuel supply awareness is uninterrupted. All the darkness of the world fails to impact its light. Guru Ji has said that when that light is illumined, it can even dim the other light sources. Guru Ji provides the analogy of the light of sun and how it overwhelms the moon in the sky rendering it invisible.
Translation: (Just as) when the sun rises, the moon succumbs (by becoming invisible). (Similarly,) wherever spiritual wisdom glows, ignorance is dispelled.
Here, Guru Ji has given example of the sun to explain a phenomenon and its effect. When the spiritual (divine) wisdom appears, the mental ignorance is dispelled, along with its grip and power. This is the ignorance which gave birth to the attachment to the false or the perishable, with greed as its collateral effect. Attachment to the world was the cause of this darkness, which is now dispelled. Now, let us see what Guru Ji is saying in the subsequent lines of the shabad:
Translation: Reading the Vedas (has) become the world's occupation; the Pundits read them, study those and hold discourses on them.
Guru Ji is talking here about the scripture of Vedas, read as an academic endeavor, and debated by the scholars based on their in-depth understanding. But this mental acrobatics is meaningless exhibition of academic acumen as no transformation has taken place within. Essentially Guru Ji is not in a favor of such scholastic endeavors. For Guru Ji, study should bring the change within.
Translation: Without the understanding and transformation brought by it, all are ruined. O Nanak, the Gurmukh is carried across (as with their new awareness they do not tread the path of sins). ||1||
Those who turned their face towards Guru, becoming Gurmukh have implemented Guru Ji’s teachings in their lives transforming it. When the lamp is lighted, all plans, actions are weighed in under its light as a result of it sins are not committed out of ignorance. Thus, light of scriptures destroyed the evil intellect. But let us try to find what those Gurmukhs acquired when this lamp was lit within. Guru Nanak Ji says:
Translation: I have found the jewel (of Naam) within the home of my own self; the lamp within has been lit. When that lamp of “Naam” is lighted within, then one meets the Lord within as Guru Ji shares with us:
Translation: Light it (within) and meet your Lord and Master. ||1||Pause||
When the lamp of awareness is lit within, the meeting and merger with God will take place; nothing else is left to be accomplished in human life. The achievement means living a life cognizant of the constant awareness of the Creator. This is the true lamp or a compass which will keep everything in life pointing north or Holy principled. The following steps have been taken to get here:
When the spirit is awakened in life, it transforms life making it principled. The result is devotee is honored in the house of the Lord with His divine grace becoming one with Him. It is Deewali not just on a particular day of the year, but every day, every moment, as every action in life is principled. All the decisions in life are now made with that illumination within. A vision expansion has taken place within and now boundary of self is stretched out beyond the skin boundary to encompass the entire creation. That is the merger with the divine. Guru Ji explains:
Translation: The Gurmukh has the light of devotional worship within his heart. Understanding his own self, he meets God. ||1||Pause||
When that achievement has taken place, the lamp has been lighted within and nothing else is left to be achieved in life. That life is truly a successful life. The state of mind is charged with positivity and constant adoration takes place within. When the lamp of wisdom lighted within enlightenment will be experienced while alive, not after death.
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